Refugee Crisis 2015
The migration crisis in Europe is one of the main topics in 2015. Many EU countries do not withstand the influx of refugees from Syria and Africa and take urgent actions: introduce quotas for immigrants, tighten border controls, and even build walls. In contrast, other countries are willing to help migrants to settle in the new environment despite the fact that it will cost billions of euros from the local budgets. The crisis due to the influx of refugees in Europe in 2015 reached unprecedented sizes, which has not occurred since the Second World War. The influx of refugees in countries of the EU causes ambiguous reactions. Nowadays, European politicians cannot make common decisions because there is no common view of the problem within Europe. According to UN statistics, about 330 thousand refugees, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, crossed sea borders and arrived at the land of the EU since the beginning of the year. Despite the fact that the war in Syria has been going on for four years, a sharp influx of refugees from this country happened in 2015.
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The European migration crisis of 2015 arose in connection with multiple increases in the flow of refugees and illegal migrants in the European Union (EU) from North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, as well as the unwillingness of the EU to take responsibility for their reception and distribution. The term "crisis" towards refugees and migrants was first used in April 2015, when a series of maritime disasters happened in the Mediterranean Sea. Within a short time (13, 16, 19 and 20 April), at least five boats, which were carrying more than 1,200 migrants from Africa to Europe, were wrecked and sunk. This migration is the biggest crisis in Europe since the Second World War. From January to September 2015, more than 700 000 asylum seekers were registered in the EU member states.
The uncontrolled movement of migrants leads to numerous casualties. Since August 27, in the east of Austria, the bodies of 71 refugees, who had been likely suffocated due to lack of oxygen, were found in a closed abandoned truck. From January to August 2015, according to the UN, about 2,400 people, who were trying to cross the border in order to arrive in Europe, died in the Mediterranean Sea. On October 15, 2015, a refugee from Afghanistan was the first killed while trying to cross the Bulgarian border.
A number of asylum seekers in the countries of Europe are threatening. According to Rosstat’s data, in 2014, EU countries accepted 626,715 applications, among which 672,000 applications were registered, granting political asylum. It has been the highest rate since 1992. The main countries from which almost half of all refugees arrived are Syria (20%), Afghanistan (7%), Kosovo (6%), Eritrea (6%), and Serbia (5%).
The Schengen Agreement and the Dublin Regulation
According to the Schengen Agreement, 26 European countries (22 Member States of the European Union out of 28 countries and 4 members of EFTA) came together to form an area in which border controls at internal borders are abolished, limited only by the control at the external borders of the zone, and monitored where necessary. Countries can regain control of internal borders for a period not exceeding two months for reasons of public policy or national security.
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The Dublin Regulation defines the responsibility of each member state of the European Union for the study of an application for asylum in order to avoid a situation in which applicants ask for asylum in many EU countries or a situation in which no state assumes responsibility for the applicant. As a matter of principle, (if family or humanitarian reasons are not represented) the applicant should submit a request for asylum in the first EU member state which he entered, and where he was fingerprinted. If the petitioner moved to another country from the list of EU member states, he may be deported back to the first state, which he entered. Consequently, many have criticized the Dublin Regulation because it imposes too much responsibility for asylum on member states located at the borders (for example, Italy, Greece, Hungary) instead of developing a burden-sharing system between the member states.
President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz said that the main problem that caused migration is not the influx of refugees, but the lack of solidarity for the adoption of joint rules addressing their resettlement. Thus, it leads to a significantly uneven load on the migration services of individual countries. As a result, a massive influx of migrants threatens the existence of the Schengen Agreement, and contradictions between the EU to resettle migrants deepen the split in the European Union.
Who Are the Refugees?
Mainly, the refugees are residents of Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, they are citizens of Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria, and other disadvantaged African countries. In these states, ordinary civilians may be victims of terrorists, war, pirates, or bandits. In Syria alone, victims of the civil war turned out to be more than 250 thousand people. Thus, the civil war causes an increase in the number of refugees in Europe, which is a typical way of events.
The Reasons for Migration Crisis
The migration crisis in Europe has been formed by several factors. The war in Syria is still going on, and a significant part of the country is controlled by ISIL (an organization recognized as an extremist one). The war in Libya also does not stop. If the EU had successfully negotiated with Moammar Gadhafi on border controls and harsh suppression of illegal migration to Europe before, the situation would have been not that severe. However, now, there is no one to negotiate with., The way to Italy through Libya is open for Africans from Eritrea and Somalia: it is merely 450 kilometers across the sea from Tripoli to the coast of Sicily. Turkey's border with Syria is poorly protected; however, in Turkey, migrants have no right to work. Nevertheless, it is possible for them to move from Turkey to Greece or to the Balkans.
In addition, UN agencies, working with millions of refugees in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, began to complain of a lack of funds, which in turn has made conditions in the refugee camps even more spartan. For example, after the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was requested to gather an additional 21 million dollars in order to help countries, such as Italy, Hungary, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, through which the flow of refugees comes into Europe, only 1 million 890 thousand were collected.
Any civil war is awful, but it is even worse when it turns into a war of all against all. It seems to be that while gaining momentum in Africa and the Middle East, ISIL is fighting not against a particular political or religious power. Its victims are both Christians and Muslims. ISIL acts against civilization in general. Since it is apparently cruel, it is not surprising that the number of refugees is increasing.
Another reason for migration is probably the fact that people were able to save money to cross the border from Greece in their onward journey to Europe. Depending on how many services of smugglers are necessary to address for the refugee, a way to Germany for one person averagely costs about 3 thousand dollars.
It is also important to mention that now the way through the Balkans became known among Syrians. For the first time, they tried to use it in the summer of 2014. The first word of mouth, and then a specially created Facebook page, has taught thousands of Syrians where it is necessary to cross the border.
The fact that European countries cannot reach a consensus on how to solve the problem of an influx of refugees does not contribute to the improvement of the situation. The idea to spread evenly newcomers among all 28 countries of the European Union in proportion to the scale of the population of each country was met with hostility by some countries, especially those that recently joined the EU.
The Reason why the Refugees Choose Europe
Europe accepts refugees, including Muslims. For more than one decade, Germany, France, Sweden, and other countries have been willing to spread their social benefits not only to their own citizens. However, it would be a mistake to think that refugees go exclusively to the European Union. Lebanon accepts 232 refugees per every thousand of residents. In Jordan, this number is 87, in Turkey, it is 21 migrants, in Germany, it is -2.6, and in the UK, it is 1.8. Chad, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan accept more refugees than the EU countries. Primarily, migrants are fleeing to the border states of the conflict zones, and only then try to move on. The problem is that there is no place for migrant workers in Europe since it was not prepared for their mass influx.
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The standard of living in Europe is one of the highest in the world. It is an ideal place for a refugee: there are good social benefits, a relatively low level of xenophobia, a large migrant community, in which it is possible to socialize comparatively often. The EU is difficult to reach: it is expensive, time-consuming, and life-threatening. However, it is unlikely that such impediments can scare a man who faced a civil war.
Negative Reaction of European Countries
Waves of migration from the Middle East and Africa swept Europe. Moreover, the crisis caused splits in the European Union. Eastern European countries say they do not accept any responsibility for the troubles of Syria, Libya, and Iraq. Many EU countries believe that they have no responsibility for the refugees; thus, they simply oppose them. For example, the Hungarian government announced its intention to send several thousand police officers to the border with Serbia in order to stop the influx of migrants. Hungary has also erected a security barrier with barbed wire along the border with Serbia, a country from which refugees arrive. In the parliament, a draft law on emergency measures to control migration was provided. For example, it is proposed to introduce a three-year prison sentence for people who are moving into the country through a barbed-wire fence. Such actions of authorities have been repeatedly condemned by the UN and human rights organizations.
In the majority of countries in Eastern Europe, there are anti-Muslim attitudes and considerable reluctance to shelter the people in search of freedom and safety. These sentiments are especially evident in countries with a strong religious tradition, for example, in Poland. Poland has officially stated that it would accept only Christians similarly to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Muslims in these countries are not welcome. It can be explained that countries, which are relatively new in the European Union, also count on economic and other benefits from this alliance. Therefore, they are generally skeptical about the idea to host thousands of Syrians.
The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia in a joint statement rejected the idea of quotas for the reception of migrants of all EU member states, standing up for "the preservation of the voluntary nature of the measures of solidarity within the EU."
In Europe, populist parties injected anti-immigrant views. If politics will pander populist policies, then Europe will turn into a fortress. Demands to eliminate the Schengen system of the EU, which put an end to cross-border controls, undoubtedly will grow. There are many reasons for it. Someone is afraid of Islamization, someone apprehends the creation of ghettos, someone thinks that migrants will take away jobs, someone adheres to nationalist views, and someone is simply afraid of strangers. In addition, at least initially, the states have to pay unemployment benefits to migrants and teach them European languages. However, Europe, which is going through hard times, apparently does not have enough money for it.
Countries Accepting Migrants
Other countries think differently. They state that not to allow the refugees to cross the borders means not to cope with the problem, and turn potentially useful members of society in illegal immigrants. Moreover, being illegal residents, they will be violent, considering the fact that refugees lose their last money and are at high risk (e.g., travel by sea to the coast of Italy in the crowded courts) on the way to the EU. Even if the borders are closed (which, incidentally, also will be expensive), the EU does not cease to be an attractive destination for migrants. Some states understand that it is not related to economic and political circumstances. It turns into a full-fledged humanitarian catastrophe. Thus, not allowing migrants to enter a particular country is the same as condemning many of them to death.
It is expected that this year about 800 thousand workers will arrive in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that this process will change the country, but Germany alone cannot solve this problem. The authorities promised to speed up the asylum procedure and to allocate additional funds to help refugees.
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In addition, German authorities decided to transfer Kosovo, Albania, and Montenegro to the list of "safe countries", which means a probability that applications of their citizens for asylum in Germany will be refused. Earlier, the German government announced a further 6 billion euros for the needs of refugees. Under this plan, the country will build a new refugee camp for about 150 thousand people. Additional funds will be allocated to the program for the study of language and the integration of migrants. The program provides additional funding and increases the number of police to 3000 people.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Britain is ready to accept up to 20,000 refugees from Syria in the next five years. However, it concerns only those refugees in the UN camp near the border with Syria and not those who are trying to get to Europe on their own. Hence, only UN camp refugees will be granted humanitarian protection. It is a special status given to those who are not seen as a politically persecuted refugee, but whose life is threatened at home. These people will have the right to reside in the United Kingdom for five years; they will also have the right to work and receive social benefits and payments. After five years, they can apply for a residence permit in the United Kingdom. The funds allocated in the budget for international assistance will be used for the accommodation of the refugees from Syria in Britain. Since the beginning of the war in Syria, nearly 5,000 Syrians have received refugee status in the UK.
The Probable Consequences of the Crisis Caused by the Influx of Refugees
Today, Europe is faced with a growing refugee crisis. The treatment of refugees is the largest challenge that the European Union will encounter in the near future. The number of those seeking refugee status is growing rapidly.
In a best-case scenario, the current refugees will be treated with sympathy. However, they can mostly expect indifference, dislike, hatred, and sometimes even open violence. This is the sad reality. It is also obvious that each country of the European Union plays alone rather than developing a common refugee policy. Hungary, where xenophobia is mutating into a public consensus, is a particularly grotesque example. Europe itself could not bear the idea of the community without borders, and the reason for it is a catastrophic and chaotic policy towards refugees. The growth of anti-immigrant moods may contribute to the strengthening of the radical parties since the European Conservatives and Radicals are taking up very different positions. If this happens, all the values that Europe professes, and the plans for its further closer integration, will be undermined. It will be detrimental to Europe's image of a liberal society protecting the corresponding values. Moreover, immersing in internal affairs and xenophobia in Europe will have a negative impact on the EU as well as its influence on eastern and southern neighbors.
Slurred Europe's response to the crisis proves its weakness in matters of crisis management. It is one of the instruments of EU foreign policy, which it can boast. However, because EU policy is based on soft power usage, the possibility of crisis management is severely limited. In any case, the EU cannot act effectively without the strict customs controls: it is needed to prevent illegal migration.
From a practical standpoint, in addition to trying to make all EU members share the overall burden of the influx of refugees between themselves, the EU may also carry out other emergency measures. For example, it may increase medical, social, housing, and educational facilities in Turkey and Jordan that took many refugees. The EU may also start negotiations with the government of Eritrea. Young people escape from the country actively to avoid reprisals and almost incessant military conscription.
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However, further developments will depend on how the integration of several million people will be realized in two or three years. It is important to consider that assimilation of people with very conservative views and Islamic roots is a huge issue.
Different reactions of the countries reflect the discrepancy of ideas about political and economic solidarity associated with differences in historical experience. Germany considers necessary assistance to migrants, remembering well to which loss restrictions on refugees during the Second World War have led. The statement that the Hungarian wall contradicts common European values is connected with the memory of the camps and the walls. Everything that is happening, and, in particular, objections of Eastern European states against the quotas according to which distribution of migrants in the EU is proposed to be implemented, shows the difference between perceptions of these countries of the European Union. However, multiculturalism is one of the most important achievements in Europe. It started to consciously invite migrants from Muslim countries a few decades ago. Therefore, if anyone can handle the influx of refugees more effectively, it would be the advanced countries of the EU – Germany, France, Sweden, and others.